After another major character death last week, The Walking Dead delivers the obligatory palette cleanse before moving on to its next big narrative arc. Did this week’s episode manage to keep well paced despite its utilitary function?
Let’s bitch it out.
As both characters and audience members still reel from all the recent deaths in the show, it comes as no surprise that in this week’s episode we take a pensive reset before we move into the next big Walking Dead plot point. The focus this time is on Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Maggie (Lauren Cohan), as they fully comprehend the loss of Beth, and Sasha (Sonequa Martin Green) who tries to repress her hopelessness and rage over losing both Bob (Lawrence Gillard Jr.) and Tyreese (Chad L. Coleman)
These episodes aren’t anything new to us (remember how long it took Andrew Lincoln’s Rick to get over the death of Lori?) there’s a necessity for it in order to keep things believable. Although we don’t expect much will happen, there’s a danger of a utility episode like this becoming a boring exercise in self-wallowing vs. an offering with more emotional heft. I must say I’m not quite sure how I felt about ‘Them’ in this regard. There were definitely moments where I found my mind wandering rather than being fully engaged in what was on screen.
It’s important to see the effects of major deaths on the remaining characters, and I appreciated the subtle touches alluding to the never-ending, hamster-wheel plight of loss and survival that’s necessary in this world, but sometimes you have to wonder how many times characters can just ‘bounce back’ within a one-episode span. I feel like the formula has to change a bit in order to have some real emotional punch. This isn’t to say that I’m longing for another visit from cray-cray, unhinged Rick, but just a deviation from the typical “let yourself feel it’ runaround.
That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy this episode. In fact, I’ve been waiting for this one for quite a long time, and it’s not because of the mourning of characters gone by, but for once we actually get a somewhat authentic portrayal of what things might actually look like in a zombie apocalypse. Going two full days without food (the occasional earthworm notwithstanding), I’ve been waiting to see our survivors in a much more dire situation due to the practicalities of survival (starvation, heat-exhaustion and exertion) rather than simply running away from walkers. There’s also a very discernable grime and funk emulating off every one of them. The gang does not look good and it’s about time that we’ve seen them looking like this.
The moment on the bridge when they have no energy to even kill walkers, merely pushing them out of the way, was one of the strongest moments for me. It encapsulated this fantastical situation in a way that felt accessible. Couple that with the emotions of grief that Daryl, Maggie and particular Sasha were feeling, and that’s what elevates this episode from the other ‘after death’ episodes we’ve seen before. So while it may not have been one of the most memorable episodes of the series in terms of plot points, I was glad to finally get an episode that expressed the sheer desperation and resilience of our group.
- Although there’s a consistent reminder that we don’t want much of the graphic novel comparisons in these reviews, I confess I’ve read a few of the series’ opening issues (I think I jumped ship after comic book Lori died). But this episode we get Rick’s iconic declaration that ‘The Walking Dead’ doesn’t refer to the walkers that seem to rule the earth, but in fact, it’s the survivors who to which the title speaks. Lincoln delivers the moment quite powerfully, and I’m sure that both graphic novel and television enthusiasts were impressed that the series title was so seamless integrated into the fictious world.
- I particularly appreciated the moment between Carol (Melissa McBride) and Maggie as they look at a walker trapped in one of the barn’s stables. After observing the un-used gun, Maggie wonders why the pre-zombie girl didn’t shoot herself to which Carol retorts “Some people can’t give up – like us.” Considering the episode’s themes, it could have easily been misconstrued as over-the-top spoon-feeding, but McBride’s delivery save us from that and instead is more subtly effective.
- The zombie that was tied up in the trunk? That’s some effed-up shizz.
- At the end of the episode we meet the ominous ‘friend’ Aaron (Ross Marquand) who looks way too clean and freshly showered to be trusted.
What did you think viewers? Do you feel like you got some good character depth in the episode, despite the fact that nothing really happens? What do you think of Aaron? Will he be a friend or foe? And where the hell is Morgan (Lennie James)? Give us your thoughts in the comments below.